Feds Document Core Areas for Decimated Sage-Grouse

December 8, 2010

Populations of greater sage-grouse in the western US and Canada are at about 3% of their early-19th-century peak, and there has been a concerted effort to have them designated as threatened or endangered. Those efforts have failed in the US so far, even though the BLM acknowledged in March 2010, when it denied such a request, that the greater sage-grouse warrants protection. The agency decided, though, that other species are of higher priority.

The remaining greater sage-grouse are in CA, CO, ID, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

There have been localized efforts in some of these states to help the birds recover, but those efforts often face dramatic challenges when they are competing with rapidly expanding land uses such as natural gas drilling or ranchette development, or with ongoing uses such as cattle grazing, agriculture, and mining.

To help facilitate recovery efforts, a consortium of federal, state, and provincial agencies released on Nov. 23, 2010, a map and report on known greater sage grouse high-density breeding populations. The team consists of the BLM, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (state and provincial).

The map is considered a starting point that can be refined with the input of state fish and wildlife agencies. But you can use it right away as you cover various land use and environmental issues, since it can highlight areas of conflict between the birds and various proposed or existing developments.

Wyoming has 37% of the identified populations, followed by Montana (18%), Idaho (14%), Oregon (6%), and Utah and Colorado with 4% each. The BLM manages 45% of the affected lands, 39% is in private hands, 6% is overseen by the US Forest Service, and 5% is under state ownership.

For a few media examples illustrating conflicts between the birds and natural gas and wind power development, see:

There also can be controversies over how the birds and airports coexist, or don't.

For media coverage of a recent 3-day meeting in Wyoming to address greater sage-grouse issues, see:

For more information, see:

SEJ Publication Types: